A Thanksgiving Proclamation

Last year, in honor of our celebration of Thanksgiving, I posted George Washington’s “Thanksgiving Proclamation.”  From the earliest years of our nation, each year a day was set aside to give thanks to God for the blessings He has graciously provided to our land and our people.  But it wasn’t until President Lincoln, in 1863, during the height of the Civil War, established a national day of Thanksgiving. I thought I’d share His letter of proclamation, which was actually written by William Seward, serving as Secretary of State. Enjoy, and may we give thanks to God for all His many blessings, not just tomorrow, but every day.

Washington, D.C.
October 3, 1863

By the President of the United States of America.

A Proclamation.

The year that is drawing towards its close, has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature, that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever watchful providence of Almighty God.

In the midst of a civil war of unequalled magnitude and severity, which has sometimes seemed to foreign States to invite and to provoke their aggression, peace has been preserved with all nations, order has been maintained, the laws have been respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed everywhere except in the theatre of military conflict; while that theatre has been greatly contracted by the advancing armies and navies of the Union.

Needful diversions of wealth and of strength from the fields of peaceful industry to the national defence, have not arrested the plough, the shuttle or the ship; the axe has enlarged the borders of our settlements, and the mines, as well of iron and coal as of the precious metals, have yielded even more abundantly than heretofore.

Population has steadily increased, notwithstanding the waste that has been made in the camp, the siege and the battle-field; and the country, rejoicing in the consciousness of augmented strength and vigor, is permitted to expect continuance of years with large increase of freedom.

No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy. It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and one voice by the whole American People.

I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens. And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to His tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquillity and Union.

In testimony whereof, I have hereunto set my hand and caused the Seal of the United States to be affixed.

Done at the City of Washington, this Third day of October, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, and of the Independence of the United States the Eighty-eighth.

By the President: Abraham Lincoln

Thoughts on Suffering

As I continue reading through the Memoirs and Remains of Robert Murry M’Cheyne, I keep finding treasures of wisdom that I want to pass along.  The following is from a letter M’Cheyne wrote to his congregation when he was separated from them because of his poor health.  There were several in his congregation who were sick as well, and they had written to him about the meaning of suffering.  Here is his reply:

You have here, then, in Job 23:8-9, a child of light walking in darkness, an afflicted soul seeking, and seeking in vain, to know why God is contending with him. Dear friends, this is not an uncommon case; even to some of you God’s providences often appear inexplicable. He has tried you in different ways: some of you by the loss of your property, as He tried Job; some of you by the loss of dear friends; some by loss of health, some by the loss of the esteem of friends. Perhaps more than one trouble has come on you at a time, wave upon wave, thorn upon thorn. Before one wound was healed, another came, before the rain was well away, clouds returned. You cannot explain God’s dealings with you, you cannot get God to explain them; you have drawn the Savior’s blood and righteousness over your souls, and you know that the Father himself loves you; you would like to meet Him to ask, “Why do you contend with me?”

My dear afflicted brethren, this is no strange thing that has happened to you. Almost every believer is at one time or another brought to feel this difficulty: “God makes my heart soft, and the Almighty troubles me.” Is it in anger, or is it in pure love, that He afflicts me? Am I fleeing from the presence of the Lord, as Jonah fled? What change would He have wrought in me? If any of you are thinking thus in your heart, pray over this word in Job. Remember the word in Psalm 46, “Be still, and know that I am God.” God does many things to teach us that He is God, and to make us wait upon Him. And, still further, see in verse 10 what light breaks in upon our darkness: “But He knows the way that I take: when He hath tried me, I shall come forth as gold.”

Observe, first, “He knows the way that I take.” What sweet comfort there is in these words: He that redeemed me, He that pities me as a father, He who is the only wise God, He whose name is love, “He knows the way that I take!”He that is greater than all the world is looking with the intensest interest upon all your steps.

You do not know your own way. God has called you to suffer, and you go, like Abraham, not knowing whither you go. Like Israel going down into the Red Sea, every step is strange to you. Still, be of good cheer, sufferer with Christ! God marks your every step.

He that loves you with an infinite, unchanging love, is leading you by his Spirit and providence. He knows every stone, every thorn in your path. Jesus knows your way. Jesus is afflicted in all your afflictions. “Fear not, for I have redeemed you. I have called you by my name, you art mine. When you pass through the water, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow you. When you walk through the fire, you shall not be burned, neither shall the flame kindle upon you.”

Second, “When He hath tried me, I shall come forth as gold.” This also is precious comfort. There will be an end of your affliction. Christians must have “great tribulation;” but they come out of it. We must carry the cross; but only for a moment, then comes the crown.

There is a set time for putting into the furnace, and a set time for taking out of the furnace. There is a time for pruning the branches of the vine, and there is a time when the husbandman lays aside the pruning-hook. Let us wait his time; “he that believeth shall not make haste.” God’s time is the best time.

But shall we come out the same as we went in? Ah! no; “we shall come out like gold.” It is this that sweetens the bitterest cup; this brings a rainbow of promise over the darkest cloud. Affliction will certainly purify a believer. How boldly he says it: “I shall come out like gold!” Ah, how much dross there is in every one of you, dear believers, and in your pastor!

Oh that all the dross may be left behind in the furnace! What imperfection, what sin, mingles with all we have ever done! But are we really fruit-bearing branches of the true vine! Then it is certain that when we are pruned, we shall bear more fruit. We shall come out like gold. We shall shine more purely as “a diadem in the hand of our God.” We shall become purer vessels to hold the sweet-smelling incense of praise and prayer. We shall become holy golden vessels for the Master’s use in time and in eternity.

May the promise that God knows and shares our suffering, and that God is using it to refine His people, strengthen you and give you hope as you face trials and afflictions.

Grace and peace,

SDG

Quoted from: McCheyne, Robert Murray, and Andrew A. Bonar. Memoir and Remains of the Rev. Robert Murray McCheyne. Edinburgh; London: Oliphant Anderson & Ferrier, 1894. Logos Digital Edition.

How Big Is Your God?

“Oh give thanks to the LORD, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever!
Let the redeemed of the LORD say so, whom he has redeemed from trouble”
Psalm 107:1–2 (ESV)

Have you ever felt that you’ve gone just a little too far for God?  Like maybe he was able to save you before, but now, well, now you’ve just gone and done it.  The words you said to your spouse, you can’t take those back, the damage is done.  What happened last weekend, you’re still learning about all that happened, and only now beginning to realize the consequences.  You’ve messed up your life beyond the point of no return.  You’ve dug yourself into such a deep pit financially, it would take three lifetimes to repay the debt.  God might have been able to fix things before, but not anymore.

Maybe you’ve sat in church your whole life; you’ve heard the promise of forgiveness, the talk about the power of God, you know all the Sunday school answers.  But the pastor really never knew just how bad things could really get, right?

Listen, even pastors have been there.  Sure the church has existed for 2 millennia, but the problems we pastors face today, we’re not sure if God himself can sort these things out.

We’ve heard the promise of God in Jeremiah 29.  God says, “I know the plans I have for you… plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.”  But we know better.  We know the extent of what We’ve done.  We are overwhelmed by the problems we face, and underwhelmed by the potential of God to save us.  We hear the voice of God sighing in dismay, “I know the plans I had for you… but then you went and did this, and said that; I just don’t know if those plans are possible anymore.”

Friends, that’s not the voice of God, that is the voice of Satan, trying to discourage you as you cling to the false image of God you have labored so long to create.

My question for you is, “Just how small is your God?”  I’m not trying to kick you when you’re down, but really.  Is your situation so great that the Almighty God, creator of the universe, could not have provided deliverance?  Is the cross of Christ not sufficient for even this sin, this guilt, that you’re struggling with today?  Is the God who sees blind to your plight?  Is the God who hears deaf to your prayers?  When you’ve resigned from trusting in the providence of God, when you say that God cannot save you this time, you have essentially said that you can create a rock that God cannot move, that you and your situation are stronger than God himself.

Psalm 107 is a Psalm of deliverance, a psalm for you.  God is saying to you today, “you got yourself into this mess, you may feel overwhelmed, but turn to me, trust in me, and I will get you out of it.”

Verses 4–7 (The Message)
Some of you wandered for years in the desert, looking but not finding a good place to live,  Half-starved and parched with thirst, staggering and stumbling, on the brink of exhaustion.  Then, in your desperate condition, you called out to GOD. He got you out in the nick of time;  He put your feet on a wonderful road that took you straight to a good place to live.

Verses 10–11, 13-14 (The Message)
Some of you were locked in a dark cell, cruelly confined behind bars,  Punished for defying God’s Word, for turning your back on the High God’s counsel – Then you called out to GOD in your desperate condition; he got you out in the nick of time.  He led you out of your dark, dark cell, broke open the jail and led you out.

Psalm 107:17–20 (The Message)
Some of you were sick because you’d lived a bad life, your bodies feeling the effects of your sin;  You couldn’t stand the sight of food, so miserable you thought you’d be better off dead.  Then you called out to GOD in your desperate condition; he got you out in the nick of time.  He spoke the word that healed you, that pulled you back from the brink of death.

Let God be God; robust, strong, mighty, able, and willing to save you. Abandon this false god that you have clung to in desperation, the one who isn’t strong enough to carry your burden, the one who couldn’t foresee this trial and make a way through it. Turn to the one, true, living God who is mighty to save.

Our God is greater, our God is stronger
God You are higher than any other
Our God is Healer, awesome and power
Our God, Our God…

And if Our God is for us, then who could ever stop us
And if our God is with us, then what can stand against?
And if Our God is for us, then who can ever stop us
And if our God is with us, then what can stand against?

Our God (is greater) – Chris Tomlin

Grace and peace,

SDG

God-watching

Some friends in the church got us hooked this last weekend on a web-site that is streaming live video of a Bald Eagle’s nest near Decorah, IA with three eggs.  As I write the eggs are only two or three days from hatching.  Watching the eagles come and go from the nest is magnificent, watching them sit there for hours on end – not so much.  Still, it’s better than most of what’s on TV right now. (Click here to visit the site.)

We have a lot of Bald Eagles that nest in our region, so Bird-watching is a pretty popular past time.  If you take the time to look, there are beautiful birds everywhere.  The Robins are back in force.  I caught a glimpse of a Cardinal yesterday from the bedroom window.  Pretty soon, the Turkey Vultures will be roosting on the tower across the street (not so pretty).

This got me thinking, though – if bird watching is such a popular thing to do, should “God-watching” be popular too.  I don’t mean looking for images of God, Jesus, or the Virgin Mary in coffee stains and potato chips.  No, I’m talking about that kind of vision in which you are looking for God to be revealed working in everything around you – the promotion at work, the diagnosis from the doctor, the blessing of family and friends, the loss of a loved one.  In all these things, the providential and sovereign hand of God is working, but too often we aren’t looking to see it.

How would life be different, though, if we spent every waking moment expecting to see God working in our midst.  God is not limited to working for one or two hours of your week as you are in Church, God is with you, guiding, leading, moving, directing your ways.  God is working right now in your life, are you watching, looking, for Him?

On the next tab over on my browser I see the eagle is still there.  In my heart I know that God is with me, and that He will never leave.  Happy God-watching!

SDG